TODAY -

Manipur as an actor on India's eastern neighbourhood stage
- Part 1 -

Puyam Rakesh Singh *

ASEAN-INDIA Car Rally 2012  passing through Moreh Area, Manipur :: 15 December, 2012
ASEAN-INDIA Car Rally 2012 passing through Moreh Area, Manipur :: 15 December, 2012 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



When New Delhi talks about the 'Act East' policy, Manipur comes into the scene as an actor sharing a long border with Myanmar. Though small it has to play its role in shaping the things that will unfold in the years to come in Asia. What will be Manipur's role? It is true that Manipur has a small territory, less population and few natural resources compared to other big states. But it can develop its human resource capital and take advantage of its geographical location to further the cause of socio-economic development.

Recently, the Delhi Dialogue VII was in the news in the state because the Chief Minister of Manipur attended the ASEAN-centric track 1.5 forum. Strategic competition with China in Southeast Asia and security cooperation with ASEAN countries to control insurgency in Northeast are also important factors behind the Delhi Dialogue. In terms of economic relationship, New Delhi wished Manipur to be part of India's economic corridor to enter the Southeast Asian market. Regarding this, there are many questions yet to be answered.

At this crucial stage, those who want to see a better Manipur should do everything to improve the transport infrastructures of the state and focus on improving connectivity with neighbouring states namely Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura. Furthermore, connectivity with Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar are also crucial. There is no need to worry about connectivity with Bhutan as New Delhi has been paying great attention. Besides, improving connectivity with Myanmar and Bangladesh will help expand the market.

The broad gauge conversion from Lumding to Jiribam and the new rail line from Jiribam to Imphal could change the economic landscape of the state. Only we have to take the necessary measures to reap the benefits of such infrastructures. All-weather national highways and railway line should integrate the markets of Manipur (MA) and the Northeast (NE) with those of Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar in near future. This will provide ample market access for successful enterprises to meet the demands in MA-NE+3 (Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar).

The completion of the 400 KVA power transmission line from Jiribam to Imphal is a good development toward reliable power supply. Interestingly, the Palatana power plant in Tripura will supply some megawatts of electricity to Manipur. This should be properly exploited to enhance our productivity and create manufacturing plants. Every entrepreneur from Manipur should think of gaining good market access in MA-NE for their business and creation of jobs for the local people.

When MA-NE+3 market is captured through technological advancement, improvement of productive forces and production relations, Manipur can begin to think of Glo-Keithel (Global + 'Keithel' means market) by relying on road, railway and sea access through Bangladesh or Myanmar. At this juncture, the entrepreneurs should work hard to create global brands in the soil of Manipur through quality control.

At present, availability of energy resources is unpredictable in Manipur because of frequent interruption by general strikes and highway blockades. The concerned authorities need to formulate proper strategy to deal with the matter. In addition, telecommunication technology including broadband internet services should be improved to make use of the regular electricity supply with the functioning of the 400 KVA line. Information Technology (IT) sector and allied services can be tapped to create smart jobs in the state.

The education sector should not be left to the profit earners. Special attention should be given to the technical and vocational studies before and after 10+2 Class to convert the students who are good at Mathematics and Science subjects into skilled human capital. Manipur has a good percentage of students who excel in these subjects and aspire for engineering and technical courses. Neglecting these abilities of the population will be very costly for Manipur. Learning from the Parsi community will be good for all. This small community having a population of less than one lakh in India has a strong presence in the country's socio-economic and political spheres.

To facilitate the rejuvenation of Manipur, introduction of new advanced technologies in the state for industrial development and employment generation should be linked to the education system. Discovery of iron, use of modern fire arms and steam engine changed the course of human society in the past. Procuring new technology for our well-being should be stepped up with a now or never attitude. Both the state-owned and private enterprises can play their respective roles in importing advanced technologies from many countries. It should be followed by training and increasing the skilled labour force of the state.

The strategy of making Manipur a manufacturing hub requires easy availability of natural resources. The broad gauge railway network under construction should be used to import mineral resources from Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. Metal-based industries should not be neglected. These mineral rich states in Mainland India must be exploited for making Manipur a manufacturing hub. Importing energy resources and constructing storage facilities for non-stop availability of the fuels to burn the manufacturing units should be accomplished sooner.

Development of tourism sector will improve the economy of the state. The tourists will also become customers of the goods and services in the state. With larger number of tourists visiting the state, hospitality industry will make its contribution in job creation and economic development. Art and culture will also follow. In the name of development, the focus should not be diverted to converting Manipur into a courtyard of some dancers and entertainers.

Capital accumulation in the hands of a small percentage of the population is a reality. They should be encouraged to invest in the sectors where they can earn profit and change the economic structure. The investment on private schools should be diverted to technologically advanced sectors in the economy. Locals should start working hand-in-hand with concerned authorities and organisations to shape a better and cheaper education system for the children in our localities and villages. We see that the bad government school is nobody's business at present. Running schools for profit will make some people rich quickly but it will harm the society for generations.

There is the need for improving the investment environment as high risks will deter investors. Moreover, strengthening and improving the banking and insurance sectors are also necessary. Micro-finance service is doing good business. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) should be seen as profit making ventures that train the employees to make them skilled and semi-skilled labour force to contribute to the economy. Global competitiveness should be in mind while imparting education and training to the students. Soft skills should be imparted for enhancing employability of the fresh graduates.

To be continued..


* Puyam Rakesh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on March 26, 2015.


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